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Theft hits night flight landing

Equipment, including battery and plates of solar power obstruction lights (SPOL) installed atop Larpur, Ramshila and Brahmayoni hills, have been stolen once again.

Separate FIRs have been lodged with Bodhgaya, Kotwali and Civil Lines police stations in connection with the theft. In 2008 and 2010 also, the SPOL equipment had been stolen.

Because of the theft, night landing facility at Gaya international airport has been a non-starter this season too. To ensure night landing facility at the Gaya airport, the SPOL sets were installed atop surrounding hills, including Brahmayoni, Larpur, Ramshila, Pretshila and Dhungeshwari. Now, the SPOLs are functional at Pretshil and Dhungeshwari hills. But for operation of flights during night hours, all the SPOLs have to be functional. In case any one of the SPOL is non-functional, night operation is not possible.

After the thefts in 2008 and 2010, it was decided to depute chowkidars atop the hills for safety of SPOL sets. But the chowkidars do not stay at the hilltops as there are no sheds for them in the night. Taking advantage of the situation, criminals stole the SOPL set batteries.

Gaya senior superintendent of police Nishant Kumar Tiwary said: “We have come to know of the theft. We have requested the Airports Authority of India (AAI) officials to set up a room at the hilltops so that the men on duty can withstand rain and chill there. However, the AAI seems to have ignored our requests.”

The AAI officials, in their report, have declared that night flight operation would not be possible because of the theft. Mihin Lanka, an airline of Sri Lanka, has started weekly (every Saturday) flight operation between Colombo and Gaya from August 2. This year, the first phase of outgoing Haj flight operations are beginning from August 27 that will continue till September 25. In the second phase, incoming (returning) flights will be operated from October 10 to November 8.

It is due to non-availability of night operation facility at Gaya airport that two returning Haj flights had to move between different airports of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh last year.

A.M. Karimi, an activist of Haj committee, said due to non-availability of night operation facility at Gaya airport first the flight was diverted to Patna but it could not land there and was diverted to Lucknow.

Apart from the two Haj flights, the Delhi-Gaya-Varanasi-Delhi and the Delhi-Varanasi-Gaya-Delhi flights had to be cancelled last year due to similar reason.

Gaya is the only international airport of Bihar and Jharkhand that had become re-operational in 2002 with the take-off of only Haj flight.